Out of the Inkwell: Freedom of Choice (Vol. 46, Issue 2)
In this year’s presidential election, the decision facing the American public is not an easy one. This is not to say that in past elections the options were so simple to define, weigh, and evaluate. It’s just that this year the decision is not among good men who are qualified to assume the Presidency. This year we must determine which candidate is least likely to endanger our interests, whatever they may be, and which man poses the smallest threat to our goals and to our security. Pathetic though it may seem, many voters will be “‘settling” for a candidate this year instead of supporting one.
It is not always a good idea to limit one’s criteria for supporting a candidate to a single issue, but it is always important to protect one’s interests when deciding ‘whom to vote for. The Jewish community, which of course includes the Yeshiva community, has its own interests to protect. The votes of the Jews can greatly affect the outcome of the election because many of the crucial states in this year’s contest are areas noted for large concentrations of Jews.
One of the paramount issues concerning American Jewry is the security of the State of Israel. It cannot be denied that President Carter has financially supported Israel. The negotiations that led to and followed the Camp David Accords are also significant developments which cannot be ignored. Still, other aspects of Carter’s administration which relate to Israel are deserving of equal consideration.
The most striking of these aspects are the so-called “blunders” made by administration officials and attributed to a lack of communication with the Oval Office. At the B’nai Brith Convention in Washington, D.C. this September, President Carter stated that “unless and until they recognize Israel’s right to exist and accept Resolution 242 as a basis for peace, we will neither recognize nor negotiate with the PLO.” Yet, Andrew Young had already met with the PLO secretly, and President Carter’s disapproval of Young’s actions came only after the voters voiced theirs. If the President is truly firm on his stand, his policy should have been sufficiently clear to his subordinates that a “blunder” of this magnitude should never have occurred. Young’s move, under the conditions that the President posits, is analogous to the actions of a leader of the Democratic Party who decides to vote for Reagan. It just wouldn’t happen.
The other outstanding incident was the abstention by the United States on the U.N. vote on Jerusalem. In the September 1980 Religious Zionists of America newsletter, Rabbi Louis Bernstein states that “our criticism of American policy should not blind us to the futility of a veto,” and that the veto by the United States “would not have prevented the exodus of the friendliest nations from Jerusalem.” It is fair to say, though, that when a country’s strongest, and allegedly staunchest, ally abandons that country, she cannot expect the minor and less committed ones to remain by her side. The Carter administration, by removing its embassy from Jerusalem, has emulated a captain who, believing his ship is sinking, leaves it to go down alone. When the captain leaves, the rats cannot be expected to remain. Even if the futility of the veto is assumed, Israel should still be able to rely on her ally to stand by her.
These events are not exceptions to the general policies of Jimmy Carter; they are examples of a general trend in his actions. It is important to remember that this is the same Jimmy Carter who abandoned Taiwan, abrogating our treaty with her in favor of relations with Communist China.
The re-election of an incumbent is a vote of approval, an acceptance of his past performance as appropriate, satisfactory, and sometimes laudatory. President Carter does not deserve this approval nor should he be afforded the free rein associated with a second term. If his performance as president has been faulty when he still sought our votes, then we cannot expect exemplary action when he no longer needs them.